Empathy Interview

Kids have important questions.

Photo of Courtney Post
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I interviewed a 5th grade student who I've had little interaction with named, Lucas.  I introduced myself and began our interview.

CP: Tell me the last time you were curious about something.

L: Yesterday.  I asked my dad why is it cold when you up in the atmosphere when I know hot air rises.

CP: What were you doing when you thought about this?

L: We were on a walk outside.

CP: What did your dad say?  Did he know the answer?

L: He said he didn't know and that is was a good question.  He told me to look it up.

CP: Did you?

L: no I forgot.

CP: What do you do when you're curious about something?

L: I think about it on my own, then if I can't figure it out I ask somebody or look it up (google it)

CP: What does STEM mean to you?

L: science basically like all kids of science: computer science and physics.  (Later he wanted to add that it included research time to explore whatever you wanted)

CP: How do you think we should study STEM?

L: hands on projects.  doing something that teaches you something you can use in the real world

CP: What's something you'd like to learn?

L: coding and biology

CP: what about coding?

L: like computers and electronics are cool.  Like you can talk into a microphone and someone on the other side of the world can hear what you say as you are saying it.

CP: What questions would you like to answer?

L: How the processor in a computer works or how sharks work

CP: Is there time in school to answer these questions?

L: no I do it at my house

CP: should there be time in school?

L: yeah, like 20 minutes at the end of each day.  I mean like I don't really care how magnets work.  I'd rather look up stuff I was interested in. 

[Optional] Synthesize a little! In one sentence, describe something you learned from your empathy exercises or analogous research.

Kids do and learn what their teachers tell them to but that doesn't mean they think its important or interesting.

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Photo of Erin Quinn

The insight from the question that occurred to Lucas as he was outside on a walk is super interesting to me, because it was in the middle of an experience. This makes me think that we need to design learning tasks so that it immerses kids in an experience. The good questions will emerge there, not while sitting in an uncomfortable seat in a discipline-neutral classroom.